One of two talented stagiaires riding for Team Sky this season, Tao Geoghegan Hart took time of out his busy schedule to talk about racing, joining up with the team and his progression as a rider.
The 20-year-old Brit will compete in team colours later this year with a race programme set to be confirmed soon. Currently Geoghegan Hart finds himself in the middle of an intense block of racing, having just complete the Tour of Utah for his current continental team Axeon Cycling.
The established American set-up produced current Team Sky star Ian Boswell, as well as former riders Alex Dowsett and Joe Dombrowski.
With an impressive 13th place on GC in Utah, and the upcoming USA Pro Cycling Challenge looming large, we caught up with Tao in Colorado for the latest.
Hi Tao. What are the main things you are looking to get out of this stagiaire period with Team Sky?
I think coming from an under-23 team, and with the experiences I’ve had so far in my career, you’re never racing with riders who have been in the sport much longer than yourself. You of course have massive guidance from figureheads like Axel (Merckx – Director of Axeon Cycling) and Keith (Lambert) at Team GB, but you never really race as team-mates with guys who have been in the sport for a decade or two, and done those big races. It’s a real huge opportunity to learn, hopefully a lot of the small things that maybe go unnoticed, but are such a big part of being a professional, and then being a successful, well-respected and well-rounded professional.
This isn’t your first experience with Team Sky, having trained alongside the team in both Mallorca and more recently at Sestriere. What are you impressions of the team?
One thing that was clear to me is that it’s very enjoyable to work in what’s very much an international team, but with a clear British background and philosophy. Okay I’ve done national team stuff a little bit in the last few years, but certainly Brits have their own quirks and their own ways. There’s something special about that. Being able to work on training camps and being able to become a bit a part of a British team is a huge thing and a massive honour.
A lot of people won’t know this but you were actually there at the launch of Team Sky in 2010 as a fan.
Everyone was there in the new kit. I would have been 14 at the time. I think I bunked off school! I remember riding around and it was absolutely freezing. I actually stopped back in Condor Cycles on the way home, riding through Central towards East London. It’s actually where I used to work on a Saturday. It’s a shop that had quite close ties with Brad (Wiggins) when he was a junior. They supported me a lot as a junior and I remember chatting to them about it and being super excited. I think everyone in the cycling community was – just to have a team to get behind and a British team. As a young kid to get to ride even within a hundred metres of that calibre of riders was incredible. Really it’s no different now but the younger you are it’s a massive deal.
What do you put down as being the biggest moment of your career so far?
I think probably when I was on the podium of Junior Paris-Roubaix. Just because it was my first big result, on a high UCI international level. Okay it wasn’t a win but it definitely gave me the belief towards results that followed since then, and that I was capable of riding at a high level. And also on a different mix of terrain which is always something that I’ve been keen to try and do. It’s something I’ve seen other riders do and always wanted to emulate. Watching someone like G (Geraint Thomas) this year just makes you want to do stuff like that even more as he shows that it’s really possible. I always liked that result because it surprised a lot of people. I think that’s a really nice thing to do, even if it doesn’t really matter. It’s quite nice when people are a little bit thrown by something you’ve done I guess.
Well done on your result at the Tour of Utah. How did you find the race?
I’d just come off a big month-long break from racing – with the first week and a bit of that being a complete break from the bike and training. It was a mid-season reset and refresh. Then I had a two-and-a-half/three week period of hard training prior to Utah, just trying to build some form up again for the second half of the season. I could definitely feel that in the legs that I hadn’t raced in quite a while. My aim going into the race was a top 10, so actually I was a little disappointed not to achieve that. But I think it was a reasonably good benchmark to set for this second half of the season to just try and build upon and keep improving.
Next up (starting on Monday) it’s the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado. That’s more great experience against top competition isn’t it?
Definitely. I think these races – Utah and Colorado – they are very different to Europe. I’ll make no bones about that. We reccy’d a climb today from the second stage and I think it’s about 16-17 kilometres long and goes up to almost 3000 metres. Yet it’s only classed as a cat. two climb! It’s a highway but it’s also as hard as many climbs. So it’s a different kettle of fish compared to racing in Europe, but I think as long as I can get a good mix of the two, it provides us with a huge opportunity to race against some of the best riders in the world. That’s a massive experience for a young person.
You’ve had a couple of attempts at both the Tour of California and Tour of Utah now. Are you happy with your progression from last year to this year?
I certainly get the butt of a few jokes on my team because they say I’m never happy. Of course you have to be happy with forward movement in terms of results, sensations, and how you leave races. My kind of perspective is that you just never get anywhere near complacent and you always try and keep that forward momentum, making big steps forward. And I think I’ve done that so far this year compared to last year. It’s something I’ll look to keep building upon and keep chipping away in every race to try and get a big win on the board or higher up on the GC. Both of those are always the aim, as well as getting stuck in and supporting other team-mates. We have older guys where it’s possibly their last races for the team as they are leaving the under-23 ranks. There’s always quite a few different agendas on the cards as an under-23 team and I think that’s part of the fun really.
Finally – you’ve been working with Rapha for a long time haven’t you. Are you able to expand on the relationship you’ve had with them over the years?
Rapha approached me as a 15 year old after I’d raced the London Nocturne support race. Which would be way back in 2011 I believe. I’ve had an amazing relationship with them over the years. They’ve provided me with countless support, not just in clothing or product, but with pretty much every aspect of my cycling. They’re a London company and I’m a Londoner through and through and I’m really grateful to them for the help they’ve given me so far and the opportunities that they’ve been kind enough to provide. It’s definitely really exciting to have the prospect of racing in one of their jerseys again. It’s definitely a nice feeling to be representing a company that I’ve worked with for so long.